Tag Archives: Universities

Minister comments on 2016-17 widening access statistics⤴

from @ Engage for Education

Commenting on the publication of the Scottish Funding Council’s Report on Widening Access 2016-17, Further and Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“These figures are a stark reminder of why this Government was right to take the action we did on widening access.

“They show that in the four years up to 2016-17 nothing had changed and, on their own, universities were not making improvement in increasing the percentage of students from the 20% most deprived areas.

“The Commission on Widening Access reported in March 2016, by which time the vast majority of students had already applied for the 2016-17 academic year. So these figures provide a baseline from which to judge how successfully the Commission’s recommendations will be implemented – at a national level but also at an individual institution level.

“More recent figures from UCAS show a 13% increase in the number of Scots from disadvantaged areas getting a place to study at a Scottish university in 2017-18. So we expect to see demonstrable progress next year and beyond.”

Background

  • The Scottish Funding Council report on Widening Access 2016-17 can be viewed on the Scottish Funding Council website. http://www.sfc.ac.uk/publications-statistics/statistical-publications/statistical-publications-2018/SFCST062018.aspx
  • The data shows that, in 2016-17, 13.8% of full-time first degree entrants were from SIMD20. For all Higher Education entrants (including sub-degree and college), 17.7% are from SIMD 20.
  • The Commission on Widening Access target, accepted by the Scottish Government is, by 2030, students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds should represent 20% of entrants to higher education, with equality of access seen in both the college and university sector.
  • To drive forward progress to the 2030 goal the interim targets are:
    – 16% of full-time first degree entrants to Scottish universities from the 20% most deprived areas (SIMD20) by 2021;
    – 18% of full-time first degree entrants to Scottish universities from the 20% most deprived areas (SIMD20) by 2026;
    – By 2021, an individual institutional target for universities  of 10%.
  • The Commission’s final report was published in March 2016. The main UCAS deadline for the 2016-17 academic year was January 2016.
  • The UCAS 2017 End of Cycle report (published December/January) showed a 13% increase in the number of Scots from the most deprived communities getting places to study at a Scottish university in 2017 (4,565 in 2016 to 5,170 in 2017).

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#IsThisOk?⤴

from @ Engage for Education

Yesterday, Further and Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville visited the University of Stirling to learn more about a joint initiative between the University and Student’s Union to combat sexual violence and misconduct.

Here Jill Stevenson, Head of Student Support Services at the University, sets out how partnership working has been critical to the initiative’s success.

OVER the past two-and-a-half years, staff and students at the University of Stirling have been working closely together to develop and implement a joint strategy to prevent and tackle sexual violence and misconduct. It is characterised by the principles of collaboration, prevention and shared ownership for a culture of respectful, healthy relationships in our community.

Back in 2015, a group of students and Gender Studies staff jointly hosted a screening of the US documentary, The Hunting Ground, which sparked a series of discussions between senior University staff and students about sexual violence in universities. Following those discussions, a strong commitment to jointly take action at Stirling emerged.

Following several months of development and consultation with staff and students, and engagement with a wide range of partners including Rape Crisis Forth Valley, Police Scotland, Stirling & District Women’s Aid, the local Gender Based Violence Partnership and the National Rape Task Force, our joint strategy was launched to more than 100 guests in December 2017 by our Principal, Professor Gerry McCormac, and former Students’ Union President, Dave Keenan, with contributions from a range of external partners.

The strategy commits both organisations to “take all steps within their power to prevent, tackle and respond appropriately and supportively to incidents of sexual violence or misconduct – in all its forms – that may affect our students, staff and those who use our facilities and services.” To achieve this aim, we aspire to achieve four key objectives:

  • Foster a culture where sexual violence, harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct are not tolerated and are actively challenged
  • Ensure that our staff and students are clear about their options and receive appropriate support if they are a victim-survivor of sexual misconduct
  • Ensure University and Students’ Union staff and officers are clear about how to respond to and support students or colleagues if they have been affected by sexual violence or misconduct; and
  • Improve our knowledge and understanding about the prevalence of – and impact of our work to prevent and tackle – sexual misconduct in our community

We didn’t develop this strategy because we think there is a particular issue with sexual violence at the University of Stirling: research shows unequivocally that issues of gender based and sexual violence are pervasive throughout society. However, we recognise the powerful role that the University has as an employer, an educator, and a supporter of thousands of students, many of whom are or will go on to become the influencers and leaders of future society. We feel that we have a responsibility and a unique position to create dialogue and critical thinking about these issues amongst our University community, and to make a tangible difference to society.

Since we launched the strategy, we’ve been working hard. Some of our achievements so far include:

  • The launch of a dedicated microsite, which contains key information on sexual violence and consent, the law in Scotland, options for survivors, support available at the University and provided by partners, and guidance for those who are supporting a student, colleague or friend who has been affected.
  • The launch of our multiple award winning awareness-raising campaign #IsThisOk which seeks to raise awareness of sexual violence and encourages everyone to challenge their own assumptions and take steps to prevent and tackle sexual and gender based violence
  • The development of clear guidance on what to do if you or a friend has been affected by sexual violence
  • A comprehensive training programme for staff and students, which is now being built into induction processes
  • Creation of a 12-strong Sexual Violence & Misconduct Liaison Officer (SVMLO) network; a group of staff who are intensively trained to respond to disclosures and provide guidance to anyone affected by sexual violence

Over the coming year, we’ll be taking further action, including:

  • New mechanisms to make reporting easier, including a new online reporting tool
  • Research into the experiences of those who have received a disclosure of sexual violence or misconduct at the University
  • The development of a network of student #IsThisOk workshop facilitators, who will lead conversations about sexual violence with other students across the University
  • Continued close work with our partners, including further dialogue with the Scottish Government and other universities to identify ways we can collaborate further

We are very proud of the work that’s happening at the University of Stirling to encourage everyone to ask #IsThisOk and to take action if not. We are starting to see the impact of our work and we look forward to continuing to work with our partners to make our society a safer and better place for everyone.

Jill Stevenson, Head of Student Support Services, University of Stirling

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Articulation in action⤴

from @ Engage for Education

Further and Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville today met a former roadie who swapped life touring the world with a band to train for his dream job as an ambulance paramedic thanks to a college access course to university.

Chris Anderson, who is now studying for his BSc in Paramedic Science at Glasgow Caledonian University, was travelling and working at international music venues when he realised his true vocation.

Chris, who is 39 and originally from Bellshill, said:

“I witnessed a few injuries that happened in the large crowds that gathered for our concerts. I watched the emergency personnel that came in, taking ill or injured people out of the crowds and looking after them and work they did seemed both exciting and important. It inspired me to change direction, go to college and now I’ll be ready to apply to the ambulance service when I graduate.”

Chris was one of the students meeting Scotland’s Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP when she visited Glasgow Caledonian University to find out about the support available for more than 1,000 college students who join degree courses at the University each year.

Ms Somerville, said:

“This has been a good opportunity to see the work that Glasgow Caledonian University is taking forward to support students from a variety of backgrounds to fulfil their potential at university. Widening access is a key priority for this Government. Part of delivering this change is looking at examples of best practice to understand what works well and sharing that learning across the university sector.

“The work that Glasgow Caledonian University does to support students articulating from college is a clear demonstration of the university’s commitment to the widening access agenda. It was a privilege to meet Chris and hear his amazing story – it really brings home how important college is as a route into university and why it is imperative that we do what we can as a government and as a sector to make these opportunities more readily available.”

Paramedic Science student Chris Anderson meeting Scottish Government Higher Education minister, Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP at Glasgow Caledonian University campus

Glasgow Caledonian University welcomes more than 1,000 students from 17 colleges around Scotland each year, the second largest intake in the country. As well as access to summer schools, college applicants can also use the library, gym and computing labs to help them prepare for the move to university.

The University’s Head of Outreach, Eleanor Wilson MBE, said:

“We work closely with colleges to make Glasgow Caledonian University first choice for many students. Our admissions procedures recognise applicant’s potential with measures in place to support students from the beginning. Through our student mentors and highly-skilled staff, we aim to ease transition from college to university by creating an excellent student experience.  Their prospects are very good, because we have just recorded our best-ever figures for students completing their degrees and 97% are in work or further study six months after graduation.”

Chris Anderson says the college courses he took were a perfect preparation for university. He is now going out on placement as part of his course and he’s certain he’s made the right move.

“I get to go out observing and assisting qualified paramedics as they work. I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life, but nothing compares to that feeling of riding in the ambulance on the way to help someone who is in a life-threatening situation. To be able to be there, to be equipped and trained to help-out and maybe save a life is just amazing. It’s a lot more exciting than a tour bus.”

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Equality and fairness at heart of college and university agenda⤴

from @ Engage for Education

Further and Higher Education Minister, Shirley-Anne Somerville, has put equality and fairness at the heart of her guidance to universities and colleges for 2018-19.

Setting out her expectations for the sector in the letter of guidance to the Scottish Funding Council, published today, the Minister said that continued progress in implementing the recommendations of the Commission on Widening Access is vital.

The letter sets out the government’s expectations and priorities for its investment of £1.8 billion in the further and higher education sectors in 2018-19.

In particular, the letter highlighted the leadership role expected of the Scottish Funding Council to drive forward improvements which will contribute to equality and fairness in the further and higher education system.

This includes taking forward the Equally Safe initiative to address violence against women and girls on campus, as well as working with student’s organisations to ensure universities and colleges have support services in place that meet the needs of students with mental health difficulties.

Institutions will be expected to develop a strategy for mental health and work with NUS Scotland and their local student association to develop a Student Mental Health Agreement.

Speaking as the letter of guidance was published, Ms Somerville said:

“Education remains this Government’s defining mission and the Scottish Funding Council has a crucial role to play in supporting our drive to achieve educational excellence, equity and economic growth.

“As this letter makes clear, widening access to university for people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds remains our key priority and I am clear that progress must continue at pace.

“It with this in mind that I am putting equality and fairness at the heart of this year’s guidance to the sector.

“I am determined that we embrace the spirit of the equality agenda, as well as meet expectations on access, and I amclear about the role SFC must play to drive forward improvements in key areas such as student safety and well-being, gender equality and the living wage.

“We know that universities and colleges have a key role to play in achieving our ambitions and that is why we have demonstrated our commitment by increasing their budget.

“Our expectation is to see demonstrable progress in delivering a further and higher education system that is more equal, accessible and nurturing to all of our students, no matter their background or personal circumstances.”

Mike Cantlay, Chair of the Scottish Funding Council, said:

“We welcome this latest guidance from the Minister and will continue to ensure excellence and equity in Scotland’s colleges and universities. We share the Minister’s ambition for equality and fairness and will work with colleges, universities and our partners to drive forward progress in all areas of equal access.”

View the Scottish Government’s Letter of Guidance 2018-19 to the Scottish Funding Council online.

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Minister praises introduction of access thresholds at Abertay University⤴

from @ Engage for Education

Further and Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville has said that Abertay University’s early introduction of access thresholds for students from disadvantaged backgrounds should be seen “as an example” for other institutions.

On a visit to Abertay University today to discuss their implementation of access thresholds, Ms Somerville said:

“This Government firmly believes that access thresholds have the potential to make a significant contribution to reducing inequalities in higher education. There is extensive evidence that universities get the best students by taking into account the social and educational background of an applicant in its admissions process, which is why access thresholds have an important role to play.

“This is a view supported by the Commission on Widening Access, who recommended that all universities introduce access thresholds by 2019.

“So I welcome the opportunity to hear from Abertay University about how they have already implemented access thresholds, in time for the 2017 academic year. The initial findings are encouraging, with the number of entrants who received an adjusted offer doubling in 2017-18.

“This sits alongside Abertay University’s approach to take into account individual student’s level of preparedness for university and ensure the right support is available for those coming through the contextualised admissions process. The speed with which Abertay University has introduced access thresholds is to be commended and should be seen as an example that many other institutions across the country can learn from.”

Professor Nigel Seaton, Principal of Abertay University, added:

“We look forward to introducing the Minister to Abertay University’s new approach to supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds.  This involves making offers of admission at an ‘access threshold’, with a much lower academic requirement than previously.”

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New figures on higher education students at Scottish institutions⤴

from @ Engage for Education

New figures have been published today by the Scottish Funding Council examining the higher education sector in Scotland in 2016-17.

Read the key points from the publication:

Commenting on the figures, Further and Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“It is welcome to see in these latest statistics that we have a record number of post-graduate students and increases in both part-time and older learners.

“This Government is determined to make higher education as accessible as possible to everyone in Scotland. We recognise the importance of post-graduate study and providing the opportunities for people to get a higher education qualification later in life. That is why we are enabling even more people to study for a postgraduate qualification in the coming years by expanding access to tuition fee loans and living cost loans to students studying by distance learning.

“What these figures show is that the higher education sector in this country is continuing to go from strength to strength, with colleges playing a vital role in the delivery of many higher education courses across Scotland.”

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Universities urged to do more to support the poorest students⤴

from @ Engage for Education

Student outcomes inequality highlighted in latest Fair Access Commissioner paper.

Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville has urged the university sector to do more to support students from the most deprived backgrounds throughout their studies.

It comes as the latest discussion paper from the Commissioner for Fair Access shows the extent of the gap in retention rates, achievement levels and outcomes between students from the most disadvantaged communities and those from better off areas.

Ms Somerville said:

“This report brings in to sharp focus the extent and the range of the barriers which result in students from the most deprived backgrounds experiencing inequality at every step of their journey through university and into adult life.

“The Commissioner sets out a timely challenge to us all to do more to address this shocking inequality. Certainly I accept that challenge on behalf of the Government and would encourage universities to do likewise.

“It is an issue that I have raised consistently with university principals and intend to do so again through the next Widening Access Delivery Group. I have already asked the Scottish Funding Council to consider changes to the university outcome agreements. If more needs to be done to improve their effectiveness, then I will not hesitate to act.

“We must all be focused on picking up the pace of change. I am absolutely determined to ensure that more young people from our poorest communities don’t just make it to fresher’s fair, but to graduation day and beyond.”

Background

The Commissioner for Fair Access Discussion Paper: Retention, Outcomes and Destinations can be viewed on the Scottish Government website.

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Record student support⤴

from @ Engage for Education

More Higher Education students than ever before are receiving financial assistance from the Scottish Government.

New statistics show 143,110 students received support in 2016-17, up from 141,000 the previous year.

The figures show that almost 3,000 additional students qualified for a non-repayable bursary or saw their funding increase as a result of the income threshold being raised from £17,000 to £19,000 last year. There was also an increase in the number of students receiving support through the Nursing and Midwifery Bursary scheme, from 8,790 to 8,915.

Infographic showing new statistics from Student Awards Agency Scotland showing record investment

 

 

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Widening access – Paula’s story⤴

from @ Engage for Education

At the event to unveil the Fair Access Commissioner at Glasgow University, the new Commissioner and Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Shirley-Anne Somerville met some of the students who have been able to study at the university thanks to its widening access programme.

Here, one of the students – Paula – shares her story.

Paula Christie

I’m Paula Christie and I’m 40 years old.

I decided to return to education in my 30s after taking time out from a career in financial services following the birth of my two sons. I attended Clydebank College (now West College Scotland) where I completed a SWAP Access course, and from there I moved on to undergraduate study at Glasgow University.

I was awarded a First Class Joint Honours degree in Politics and Central and East European Studies. I was delighted to win a highly competitive 5 year scholarship from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and begin an integrated postgraduate language, Masters and PhD programme.

To date I have been awarded a Postgraduate Diploma in Russian Language and a Master of Research (Social Sciences) post graduate degree. I’m currently in year one of a three year PhD course in Central and East European Studies, with my research focusing on democratic consolidation and grass roots initiatives in post- Soviet Latvia.

Without exaggeration, the Glasgow University widening access programme allowed me to change my life and the life of my family completely. Working part time after having my children placed a huge financial strain on us and my career choices were becoming increasingly limited. Although, at times, it was tough to deal with the continued pressure of studying, I received much needed financial support from the University’s Hardship and Discretionary Fund which allowed me to complete my undergraduate study. I was also awarded a bursary from the Thomas and Margaret Roddan Trust as a result of academic excellence.

I now have qualifications that I never thought possible before returning to college. I have been able to re-train in a completely different field, and I hope to make a positive impact in European and Democracy Studies with the research I’m conducting. I’ve travelled with my studies to places I’d never heard of and have had the opportunity to meet so many interesting people.

I am now absolutely delighted to be tutoring on the widening access programme myself, as I feel really passionately about giving others the chance to change their lives through education. The programme has given me not only qualifications, but a renewed confidence in myself and my abilities. It’s been an amazing experience and one I’m keen to encourage others to share.

Commissioner for Fair Access⤴

from @ Engage for Education

Professor Peter Scott has been appointed Commissioner for Fair Access to Higher Education in Scotland.

This was a key point in the report from the Commission on Widening Access published earlier this year. The Scottish Government has committed to implementing its recommendations in full.

Prof Scott is currently Professor of Higher Education studies at University College London.

As Scotland’s Fair Access Commissioner, he will be tasked with driving the fair access agenda and making sure that young people from our most disadvantaged communities are able to reach their full potential

I made the announcement at Glasgow University, where Prof Scott and I were fortunate to be able to speak to students who have benefitted from widening access programmes and are now flourishing in higher education. One of them – Paula – has shared her life-changing story for this blog.

It’s clear from my early discussions with Prof Scott that he has a passion for widening access to higher education.

It’s a passion that I share.  A child born in our poorest communities should, by the time they leave school, have the same chance of going to university as a child born in our wealthiest communities. That is what the Scottish Government is determined to achieve.

UCAS figures published yesterday show the highest ever entry rate to Scottish universities for 18 year olds from Scotland’s 20% most deprived areas. Since 2006, the rate has increased by 3.7 percentage points to 10.9%. That is encouraging, but there is much more to do and the appointment of Prof Scott is an important milestone to achieving that. 

There is more information about Prof Scott below, including the comments he made at today’s event.

Prof Scott said:

“It is a great honour, and challenge, to be appointed Commissioner for Fair Access. The greatest challenge facing all Higher Education systems in the world is how to remove barriers to fair access, and reduce the glaring inequalities in participation between haves and have-nots.

“These inequalities undermine our efforts to build a high-skill economy and, more fundamentally, deny individuals the opportunities that should be available to all citizens in a democracy.

“I look forward very much to working with universities, colleges and schools as well as the Scottish Funding Council and Scottish Government to address these challenges.”

Biography

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Professor Peter Scott is Professor of Higher Education studies at University College London.

Prior to that he was Vice-Chancellor of Kingston University and Pro Vice-Chancellor for external affairs at the University of Leeds. He was a member of the board of the Higher Education Funding Council for England where he chaired its widening participation strategic committee.

His earlier career was spent in journalism and he was Editor of the Times Higher Education.

Professor Scott was knighted in 2007 for services to education and is the recipient of a number of honorary degrees. He has published widely on education, including widening access issues.